‘Our voices are not being heard’ – mart managers appeal to Creed…

Amidst anecdotal reports of “numerous” farm-to-farm transactions on the ground, the Mart Managers of Ireland (MMI) is urging the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to provide “much-needed guidance” on alternative trade arrangements.

The association is also frustrated with the department over its apparent “lack of consultation” with marts on last week’s trade suspension, with many operations left “scrambling” for solutions.

Meanwhile, clarification is also being sought on the latest Government restrictions to combat the spread of the highly-infectious virus Covid-19.

On Tuesday last, March 24, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, directed that all marts must suspend trading. In a further public update last Friday, March 27, the Taoiseach escalated nationwide restrictions advising that citizens “stay at home” – with exceptions being permitted for certain ‘essential services’, including farming and food production.

Following these developments, MMI chairperson Eimear McGuinness wrote to the minister to highlight that many farmers – both buyers and sellers – are reaching out to mart managers to facilitate the movement of livestock.

Insistence

The letter – which represents the views of around 30 mart managers from across the country – states: “Marts were ordered to close…in order to control the spread of Covid-19.

“However, after hearing many reports of trade continuing between farmers via farm-to-farm transfers with huge numbers of buyers calling to farms, we feel the issue must be addressed by your department so that they can appropriately provide much-needed guidance at this time.

“As your department will be aware, marts are licensed by the Department of Agriculture and are also regulated by other authorities.

We offer weighing and licensed movement of livestock, as well as a trusted payment service – providing safe and secure payment for sellers.

“We feel that, at present, the department should insist that the movement of all livestock should be processed (and weighed) through a mart.”

Social distancing risk

MMI contends that such a measure would prevent “numerous people” from visiting farms all over the country; whilst ensuring that payment to farmers would be secure.

And “most importantly”, as the letter states, this would provide “full traceability” on any transactions and movement of livestock.

“With the marts now closed, social distancing can be controlled in a monitored fashion more strictly.” The letter went on to say:

While we appreciate the communication efforts your department has kept with us throughout this process, we feel that our voices are not being heard clearly.

“More consultation with mart organisations should have been conducted. Instead the farming sector and, indeed, ourselves have been left scrambling for unsecured alternatives to mart trade.

The letter concludes: “This correspondence is simply a request to your department to provide a voice to our farming community to convey what actions they are permitted to take; and what integration in this process mart managers can offer.”

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